There was a time not too long ago when the Maui culinary scene was perhaps akin to the more rural parts of the country. Highlighted by just a select few true dining experiences. These destinations were significantly outnumbered by more low-key local institutions; tasty spots no doubt, but eateries that perhaps lacked that quintessential memorable restaurant shine. I’m pleased to say this is not the case any longer, make no doubt, as numerous talented chefs have grown into and better yet, evolved Hawaii’s famed Pacific Rim Cuisine. In fact, just the other day, two Maui chefs were honored with designation as 2024 James Beard Award of Excellence Semifinalists.
Recognizing exceptional talent and achievement in the culinary arts, hospitality, media, and the broader food system, this award of excellence represents the highest nods to standouts in the food and beverage industry in the country. Nominees are vetted during an anonymous, months-long process designed to honor those creating “exceptional food…while demonstrating a commitment to racial and gender equality, community, sustainability, and a culture where all can thrive.”
Sheldon Simeon—Tiffany’s Maui
Hailing from neighboring Hilo on the Big Island, Sheldon Simeon has quickly become one of our islands’ favorite Hawaiian born chefs and restaurateurs. Over the past 10 years, his passion, creativity and vision have helped spearhead a myriad successful projects across Maui—from Wailea to Kahului and now Tiffany’s Wailuku.
After graduating as star pupil from the Maui Culinary Academy, Sheldon ascended the ranks to Executive Chef at Star Noodle in Lahaina in 2013. It’s here that I first learned of this talented man. His guidance rapidly turned that restaurant into my favorite lunch spot on the west side. It is also here that he was discovered by the producers of TV’s longest-running culinary competition, Top Chef.
The ever gregarious Sheldon shined all the way to the finals of Top Chef’s tenth season in front of millions of fans every week. While he didn’t win the overall title—his lovable attitude, aloha spirit and ‘ohana inspired cooking helped secure the prestigious “Fan Favorite” award. Shortly after the finale aired, chef Sheldon’s opportunities really started to blossom. In 2021, Sheldon released his debut cookbook, Cook Real Hawai’i, which sold over 75k copies and was lauded as one of the top cookbooks of that year by the likes of Bon Appetit, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Good Morning America, Today.com, The New Yorker, Saveur, The San Francisco Chronicle, Fine Cooking, and more.
Now acting as Executive Chef and Owner of Tiffany’s, his newly revamped menu features true “Hawai’i Classics,” which include a strong focus on Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino and Portuguese flavors – the authentic plantation era roots of Hawai’i, and the diverse cuisine that Sheldon has become an ambassador for in recent years.
Born & raised on Maui, Sheldon’s wife Janice Simeon utilizes her business degree and experience in accounting and marketing to serve as Chief Operating Officer, managing daily business operations and working closely with the team to support day-to-day activities with staff and vendors. The power couple also own and operate the ever popular Tin Roof in Kahului, where they serve innovative, local lunch-style dishes out of a bustling take-out location.
Jeff Scheer — Marlow
Originally from Ohio, Chef Jeff Scheer has been a Maui resident for over 22 years, with most of those trips around the sun professionally perfecting his crafts in the kitchen. Jeff, like Sheldon, started out at the culinary academy at UH Maui, and earned his title as Maui No Ka Oi Magazine’s ‘Aipono ‘Chef of The Year’ in 2015 while he was owner of the catering company, Maui Executive Catering.
In 2017 he married wife Kaili Scheer, and together they have two children (River–5, Marlow–2). Following in the steps of some the best restaurateurs Hawaii has pioneered, Jeff has a close connection with the farmers, fisherman and ranchers he sources ingredients from–in addition to growing his own garden and orchard at home in Kula. Marlow is a smash hit restaurant venture, the first with wife and restaurant designer, Kaili Scheer. (Note the common theme with a dynamite owner/operator husband and wife pair.)
The hearth of the Marlow kitchen is their beautiful wood burning pizza oven; Chef Jeff also chops and hauls every kiawe log that goes into that very pizza oven, a verifiable labor of love. The pizzas are the main tenant and definitely the crowd favorite. Honestly can’t recall of a disappointing choice–some of our repeat orders being the zucchini white pie and braised pork red pie. But my favorite single item on the menu is probably the cioppino (pictured 2 photos above), a fisherman’s stew with kona kampachi, kauai prawns, in a decadent tomato fennel broth. Their succulent meatballs, massive whole prawns, and local humanely raised half-chicken (pictured directly above) are also standout selections.
As the culinary landscape of Maui continues to evolve, chefs Jeff Scheer and Sheldon Simeon have undoubtedly played pivotal roles in shaping its vibrant gastronomic culture. With an unwavering passion for their craft and deep-rooted connections to local ingredients, these two culinary maestros have garnered well-deserved recognition as 2024 James Beard Award of Excellence Semifinalists. Jeff’s devotion to sourcing locally and crafting delectable dishes at Marlow, infused with the essence of his Kiawe log-fired oven, has brought an exceptional dining experience to the heart of the island.
Meanwhile, Sheldon’s journey from the Maui Culinary Academy to reaching the heights of Top Chef stardom. His subsequent culinary ambassadorship through his cookbook and Tiffany’s Wailuku, speaks volumes about his commitment to preserving and reinventing our islands’ diverse flavors. Their culinary artistry reflects the rich tapestry of Maui’s culinary heritage. We eagerly anticipate the continued brilliance these chefs will bring to our palates and the future endeavors they are sure to pioneer with their star partners.
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